Actuarial Science: Difficulty Level of Exams Under the New Curriculum

There is an island of opportunity in the middle of difficulty.

In this article, we will see how the difficulty level of Actuarial exams has changed under the 2019 Curriculum and the opportunity that lies in it for us.

For starters, the subjects that have been combined are as follows:

CM1: The combination of CT1 and CT5 is trickier and more challenging. Besides, students have to get their hands on MS Excel.

CS2: Subjects CT4 and CT6 which were, individually, quite conceptual and difficult to deal with, have been combined in CS2 paper. These subjects have advanced statistics and concepts that students struggle with. In addition, R programming has to be dealt with.

CA1: Officially, there is no change in the syllabus but the format of the questions has changed. Students retaking the exam under the new curriculum will face difficulties. SA7 (Investment and Finance): Two paper SA5 (Investment) and SA6 (Finance) have been combined reducing it to one specialisation, thereby increasing the difficulty level.

An Actuarial student, to prepare for these subjects in one diet with simultaneously appreciating the concepts of these subjects, will have to work harder and put in more studying hours than previous exams. Majorly, the change is challenging for the students who will have to re-take an exam, failed in 2018 or couldn’t give the exam in 2018 for various other reasons, under the new curriculum. It is disrupting for them as the format for every subject has changed. In CS1, chapters from CT6 have been added and an exam on R programming has been introduced. In CM2, chapters from CT6 have been incorporated. CA1, CA2 has undergone a format change. The difficulty is more for the repeaters than the students who will have the first attempt on a subject under the revised curriculum.

As for the chapters that have been added in and removed from the revised syllabus, Members who had cleared CT4 and CT6 before the new Curriculum was adopted, lose out on additional topics like Machine Learning, Copulas. Despite having cleared these papers, they will have to take extra efforts to learn these concepts to have the same knowledge as a member clearing CS2. Members who had cleared CT3 and CT8, but not CT6, before 2018, will lose out on the topics that have been shifted to CS1 and CM2, respectively. The software skills (Excel and R) introduced in CM1, CM2, CS1, and CS2 will have to learn separately by the members who cleared these subjects under the old curriculum.

Personally, I feel victimize for losing out on concepts that have been removed or shifted. I cleared CT3 and CT8  before the change and  I was left with CT4 and CT6. With many chapters of CT6 being shifted to CS1 and CM2 and chapters like Monte-Carlo Simulation that just got removed from CS2, I feel a loss. My passed papers are not being questioned but  I know what I am missing out on. I will take to put in extra work to learn CT6 separately to have better knowledge. But my friend, who had cleared the CT series, will have to learn all the software skills that the new members will be taught. The challenges are more for the members who had cleared under the previous curriculum than for the members who will have the first attempt under the revised curriculum. Nevertheless, the efforts and challenges will be worth it if it makes us work-ready and helps us to excel in our domain.

With the introduction of programming (R and excel), the exams have become tougher to clear. Now, besides preparing for 3 hour paper-based assessment, students are required to take additional computer-based assessment which would require hours of practice. Even the assessment result will be single mark weighted average of the two exams with 70% weight assigned to paper-based assessment and 30% weight to computer-based assessment. The students run the risk of having to retake both the elements of the exam on performing below average in either one.

Work-based skills have been replaced by the PPD (Personal and Professional Development) scheme in the new curriculum. PPD scheme started on 1st September 2018. To get detailed knowledge of PPD, read

Change in qualification requirements:

Associate: Two additional tests OPAT (Online Professional Awareness Test) and PSC (Professional Skills Course) have been added and one year of PPD is required.

Fellow: 3 years of PPD in addition to associate requirements. Recommended study hours: Under the new curriculum, the study hours required for each exam has increased.

With all this, it is quite clear that qualifying has become challenging and demands proper work and understanding. Also, with IAI holding 2019 exams in June and November has caused uncertainty and stress among the students regarding exemptions.

Challenges are not sent to destroy you. They are sent to promote, increase and strengthen you.

And the new Actuarial Curriculum comes with the same purpose. The new Curriculum has focused on making the study more application-based. The introduction of software in the curriculum is a big advantage. Actuarial employers expect their staff to have the same skill set as Data Scientists. Interesting topics like machine learning and copulas have been introduced. Machine learning automatically finds the best algorithms for our data, applying the best technique and avoiding overtraining. As the rumor has it, Data Science being better than Actuarial Science,  learning programming along with our course defend Actuaries. The best we can do is accept and develop. Difficulty does not leave until you learn from it.

For detailed knowledge on the new curriculum, read

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